I tend to think of myself as a parent, second time around. This is because there is an age difference of almost 15 years between my daughter and son.
I can’t really remember much of the day to day stuff from my daughter’s early years. I remember her baby face when she slept, that she loved to craft things out of paddle pop sticks and that she made up songs while swinging alone in the hammock. I remember the unexpected moments like when she stripped off her clothes and coloured as much of her little 2 year old body in red felt pen as she could.
But I don’t remember clearly if there were times where I worried that she wasn’t eating a balanced enough diet or reaching some milestone or sleeping the expected amount of hours. I know I had a lot of worries about her childhood, ones that likely kept me up late researching what might be causing them and what I should do about them. The details though have slipped. She is now 18 and a grown woman in her own flat, with a job and life fully separate from my own. We text, we talk, she visits. She needs me differently now and that is all as it should be.
I am deep in the day to day with her four year old brother. He needs me fiercely and I am his safe place in a world that is often too much of everything for him. I worry and seek out answers to problems that seem big and sometimes insurmountable. I look for ways to smooth his path just as I did with his sister so many years ago. Often times I berate myself at the end of the day for feeling exhausted by his need of me, for his constant physical touch, for wanting a break from it all.
Then I remember that he will be 10 soon. And then he will be 15. And then he will be 18 and it will all happen so quickly. He will not sleep beside me forever but for a small season of our lives. He will not always stroke my arms to soothe and centre himself or hide his face in my neck or tell me I am the one he loves the most. I won’t remember the exhaustion or the fear or the worry or the irritations and so I remind myself that these are not really worth my time to focus on. I can remember his sister and how time passes and I can try and let them go. This knowledge is the gift his sister gave to him, a mother that has learnt the things that really matter.
Instead I can lean in close and make memories of the stuff that lasts the test of time, the moments that I will have when I am an old, old lady. His smell. His sleeping face. His fascinations and fancies. The way he chooses me to be his anchor and his home. The rest will fade away.
It is only a season.